Eat Fish, Drink Beer, Live Longer!
By the Gastronomes
Established in 1976, this month’s restaurant is one of the original eateries that helped put Old Town Alexandria on the map and, is for me, a trip down memory lane. When I came to Old Town in 1977 the Fish Market became my go-to bar and restaurant. We would gather at the then, Brass Bar, for beers in the afternoon. It was, and still is, a gathering place for many locals including…businesspersons, shopkeepers and artists from the Torpedo Factory. It is also a go to place for the thousands of tourists that visit our fair city each year. The original restaurant reached all the way from its current location at 105 King to the corner at Union Street. There were four bars on the main floor with a few more upstairs. Times have changed and the place has changed but the atmosphere and food quality is just as good as back then and the menu has been upgraded to include very diverse offerings. Then, as now, the Fish Market is still putting Old Town on the map.
Franco Landini and his son Noe bought the restaurant from the estate of Mr. Ray (Giovannoni) – who founded the restaurant – in 2006. The Landini’s immediately gutted the place, took out a bar, and rebuilt the entire place including a new and modern kitchen. Today, the restaurant offers a raw bar, soups and chowders, starters and salads, sandwiches, burgers & tacos, grilled platters, fried platters, specialties, nautical pastas, sides and a kid’s menu. The menu is very extensive but many favorites have remained over the years.
First and foremost, the Fish Market has always been noted for its 32-ounce schooner of beer. This practice still exists and has many faithful followers. The schooners are ice cold as is the beer and if you are thirsty, it hits the spot! There are also many craft beers available, a special cocktail list and a nice wine list. You can find just about anything you want here.
The Fish Market clam chowder is one of their more famous and popular items. Simmered in a rich creamy broth with potato chunks and large chunks of clam, this dish can almost be a complete meal. Complemented with some oyster crackers and a large schooner of beer…you are set. They also offer seafood stew, crab soup and lobster bisque and Guinness Stout oyster stew, perfect for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. All of these are excellent. One of the best items they offer is their version of peel and eat shrimp. The shrimp they source are large and very firm but the magic is the incredible melted butter and spice combination in which they are prepared. Another item that is great finger food is their hush puppies dipped in melted butter.
One of my favorite entrees is the fried butterfly shrimp. Succulent shrimp and fried just right. I can munch on these for hours…the taste just keeps on coming. They also offer ten different sandwich options starting with their original filet-o-fish and crab cake to a Mahi Ruben and others. The restaurant also offers a number of platter options either baked, grilled or fried. There are twelve options to choose from so check out their menu online. And to make note that this is just not your average fish house, they offer Crab Norfolk, Jambalaya and Catfish Étouffée, as well as Surf and Turf and a variety of pasta dishes which are very good.
The different dishes offered are the main attraction but the atmosphere is something else. With five dining rooms that are each reasonably small you have a sort of intimacy with others in the room. If you want to break away and pick it up a beat, you can head to the Anchor Bar. This ground floor bar is large enough to handle a crowd. On weekends there is usually live music and lots of tables and booths. The room also has numerous large screen TV’s which are perfect to watch March Madness.
The Fish Market was a part of my life early on in Old Town. Like everyone, it has evolved but the fact remains it is one of the restaurants, like Landini Brothers, the Wharf, Il Porto and the Warehouse who started it all…and not only survived but have flourished.
Fish Market Restaurant & Bar
105 & 107 King Street
Old Town Alexandria